“Big box” retailers know that abundant, well-designed parking is part of their brand identity. These retailers make large investments in their parking lots, and ongoing maintenance is required to provide good service to customers and maintain the value of properties. However, there is another compelling reason for retailers to monitor the condition of their parking lots: complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
A search on the ADA website for “parking” yields several federal government results. These cover everything from recent changes in rules and enforcement to technical definitions of the exact dimensions required for disabled parking spaces, signage, access routes, and every other aspect of accessible parking.
These federal standards are only intended as a baseline requirement, however, individual states and municipalities can add their own requirements and penalties for non-compliance. As a result, parking lot engineers must be well-versed in all of these requirements.
In 2010, the Department of Justice created a new set of rules under the ADA, updating the previous set published in 1990. While the new ADA includes a “safe harbor” provision, meaning that facilities don’t immediately have to be reconfigured to abide by the new guidelines, any upgrading (even superficial maintenance, such as painting new stripes or resurfacing the pavement) means that every element of the new law is suddenly in effect.
All public and government buildings, as well as any private business that’s open to the general public, are fully subject to these rules.
Parking lot maintenance is explicitly required as part of the ADA. Accessible spaces must be kept well-surfaced and in good repair, so that there are no rough edges or broken places that could constitute a hazard.
At a casual glance, parking lots look pretty maintenance-free. The fact is, however, they are subject to deterioration from a number of factors, including:
The initial investment in building a parking lot needs to be protected by ongoing monitoring and maintenance. To optimize the return on this continuing investment, retailers need to ensure compliance with ADA regulations.
Of course, most important is the safety and convenience of customers. Leading retailers want their brands to be associated with an easy, well-designed experience from the moment a customer drives onto the property, requiring their parking lots to be free of all hazards.
Even if no customer is ever harmed, ADA violations can be costly—up to $55,000 for the first offense and above $100,000 for further violations. Civil penalties also can be assessed by courts in cases brought by the Department of Justice.
Under Title III of the ADA, courts can order a business owner to pay compensatory damages and even back pay if there is a finding of noncompliance or discrimination against disabled persons. Furthermore, private
individuals and advocacy organizations can also bring suit, and subsequent enforcement action can seek large sums in compensatory damages.
Overall, keeping a well-maintained, ADA-compliant parking lot is essential to protecting business assets. Moreover, providing safe, convenient parking enhances a retailer’s reputation and enables it to maintain the best possible relationship with customers and the community.